The Grand Prix Stakes is the highlight of the Korean racing year. It’s not the most valuable race but it is unquestionably the best. This year, we have the defending champion Mister Park, looking to stretch his unbeaten run to 18, an Australian trainer looking to make Korean racing history, and a two-year old who, if he is as good as his hype, could be the best thing we’ve seen on the peninsula for years.
It’s going to be cold but it’s free entry to Seoul Race Park tomorrow and there should be 60,000 in attendance for what is going to be an absolute belter of a race. Here’s the rundown on all the contenders with pedigrees, age, home track, race records and jockey:
Grand Prix Stakes (KOR G1) – Seoul Race Park – 2300M – Sunday December 11, 16:35
1. Yeonseung Daero (KOR) [Creek Cat-Sensationalkris (Cryptoclearance)] Horse, 5, Busan (37/15/7/5) – Choi Si Dae
A really nice horse who would have a far better win record had his connections not been sportsmen and always run him in the most competitive company possible. Third in this race last year and winner of the Busan Metropolitan this summer but has put in three disappointing runs since. He can never be ruled out and could be a value bet.
2. Queen Of Rain (USA) [Lion Heart-Prosperous Move (Arch)] Filly, 3, Busan (13/4/2/3) – Song Keong Yun
The only filly in the race is tough to recommend. She was a well beaten fourth in the Gyeongnam Sinmun last month and is in far stronger company here.
3. Tough Win (USA) [Yonaguska-Maggie May’s Sword (Sword Dance)] Gelding, 4, Seoul (17/13/2/0) – Cho Kyoung Ho
Last year’s favourite didn’t get the distance and in his last Stakes race got sucked into a ridiculous speed duel into the first corner with Dangdae Bulpae which left both of them exhausted, handing victory to Yeonseung Daero. He’s back in winning form though and, while the distance remains a concern, he’ll be among the top three in the betting for good reason.
4. Smarty Moonhak (USA) [Smarty Jones-Maderia M’Dear (Black Tie Affair)] Colt, 2, Seoul (5/4/1/0) – Shim Seung Tae
The wildcard. A two-year old has never even run in the Grand Prix, let alone won it. We knew Smarty Moonhak was a little different to most imports who win a few races easily as a juvenile when he trotted up in the TJK Trophy last month but jaws dropped when he was entered for the Grand Prix. He’s worked well and connections are adamant that the distance is no problem and he’s ready. It’s a big test for jockey Shim Seung Tae because if Smarty Moonhak does indeed stay the distance, things are going to get very interesting. A potential superstar, there’s no downside to this colt. Except that he is two.
5. Cheonnyeon Daero (KOR) [Creek Cat-Doneitmyway (Northen Flagship)] Colt, 4, Busan (27/7/14/3) – Park Geum Man
This will be the final race for the 2010 Korean Derby winner before he is retired to stud. The trouble with him is that he keeps on coming second – he’s been runner-up in his last five races. He’s a very good bet to be second again but winning may be pushing it. If he did, however, it would be a fine finale to a very fine career.
6. Tamna Ace (KOR) [Thunder Gulch-Eacape (A.P. Indy)] Colt, 3, Busan (12/9/2/0) – Kim Dong Young
A good solid performer, while he’s got the stamina, he perhaps hasn’t got the speed that will be needed at the end of this race. A placing chance. He’ll likely make the early running so will certainly have a big impact on the outcome of the race.
7. Gippeun Sesang (CAN) [Behrens-Bellus (Saint Ballado)] Horse, 5, Seoul (40/4/4/4) – Choi Bum Hyun
Not a whole lot to recommend this one. Has been in poor form since winning a handicap in Septemebr and on paper is the weakest of all entrants.
8. Triple Sinhwa (KOR) [Capital Spending-Claudia’s Secret (Crafty Prospector)] Colt, 4, Busan (20/6/7/2) – Lee Sung Jae
A perennial placer, Triple Sinhwa will be hard pushed to achieve that here. Second to 2008 Derby Winner Ebony Storm last time out, the competition should be too strong.
9. Mister Park (KOR) [Ecton Park-Formal Deal (Formal Gold)] Gelding, 4, Busan (18/17/0/1) – Akane Yamamoto
The defending Champion. The favourite. He’s won his last 17 races, a Korean record but this is his toughest test. Akane Yamamoto has the chance to become to the first foreign jockey to win the Grand Prix and she’ll have to be at her best here. Mister Park likes to start quickly so it will be important that he doesn’t get sucked into an early speed battle. Get this right and in the home straight, he has all the weapons needed to become the third horse to win two Grand Prixs and take that record to eighteen unbeaten.
10. Yodongjewang (KOR) [Field Asuka-Mary Wonder (Shahrastani)] Colt, 4, Seoul (14/5/4/1) – Moon Se Young
A late developer, this is his first ever start at class 1. However, he should find himself outclassed here.
11. Jumong (USA) [Johar-Foreign Aid (Danzig)] Colt, 4, Seoul (24/8/4/4) – Jo In Kwen
He’s the half-brother of 2005 winner – the legendary Subsidy, last son of Mr Prospector, who cut his teeth on the inner-dirt at Aqueduct in New York before being brought to Korea to be a champion – but Jumong is a decent horse in his own right. The distance counts against him and there are others with better claims – he was well beaten by Ace Galloper in the KRA Cup Classic – but there may be some place value.
12. Dongseo Jeongbeol (KOR) [Vicar-Rendexvous Bay (Wonderloaf)] Colt, 3, Busan (13/7/1/0) – Chae Gyu Jun
That he’s the only three-year old Classic winner to make it to the Grand Prix isn’t his fault. However, it’s been a disappointing year for Korean bred three-year olds. He looked to be flying as they turned for home in the President’s Cup at Seoul last month but he ended up finishing almost last. It would be a big surprise if he returned to form here.
13. Gyeongkwaehanjilju (KOR) [Tapit-Cozzie Maxine (Cozzene)] Colt, 4, Busan (15/9/3/0) – Kim Nam Sung
Peter Wolsley has the chance to become the first foreign trainer to saddle a Grand Prix winner. The best horse Wolsley has trained in Korea, Gyeongkwaehanjilju is in great form and will love the distance. While he would be easier to bet had intended jockey Nathan Stanley not been suspended and had Jo Sung Gon, his previous regular rider, come to Seoul. Nevertheless, Wolsley’s stable jockey Kim Nam Sung gets the biggest chance of his career so far.
14. Ace Galloper (KOR) [Chapel Royal-Explicitly (Exploit)] Colt, 4, Seoul (21/15/3/1) – Park Tae Jong
The KRA Cup Classic winner and one of Mister Park’s biggest threats. The distance is a concern but the talent isn’t. If he’s there at the end, he’ll be very difficult to beat.
Gyongmaman’s verdict: Mister Park must be favourite to successfully defend his title and must be the pick for the win. Smarty Moonhak is the one to watch as a racing fan for the great story it would be but is not one to bet as a hard-hearted punter. The same is true of Gyeongkwaehanjilju. The value may lie with Yeonseung Daero.